What are the Different Signs of a Pulmonary Embolism?

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  • Written By: K. Gierok
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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A pulmonary embolism is a condition in which a blood clot forms and travels to the lungs. When left untreated, a pulmonary embolism can be life threatening. As this is the case, it is important for individuals at risk for this condition to recognize its signs and symptoms. Some common signs of a pulmonary embolism include severe shortness of breath, chest pain, excessive sweating, and blood in the saliva or nasal sputum. As many of these conditions can also be associated with other medical conditions, patients who experience them should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

One of the most common signs of a pulmonary embolism is severe shortness of breath. Often, patients who are suffering from a pulmonary embolism have a difficult time walking more than a few steps at a time without experiencing this condition. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, and who are at an increased risk for the development of a pulmonary embolism, may already suffer from daily shortness of breath. If they experience an increase in the severity of their condition, however, or experience new symptoms, they should seek medical assistance immediately.


Signs of a pulmonary embolism can also include chest pain. Though chest pain is most often associated with a heart attack, it can also be related to the development of a pulmonary embolism. Unlike patients who are suffering from a heart attack — who may experience relief of chest pain upon rest or when reclining — those with a pulmonary embolism may not see the same results. Often, these individuals experience the most severe pain during deep breathing or while coughing. In addition, chest pain associated with a pulmonary embolism will not clear up through the use of nitroglycerin, which is a medication often used in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Excessive sweating that cannot be linked to a particular cause can also be included in the signs of a pulmonary embolism. In cases of this condition, sweating often starts out minimally and increases in intensity. Sweating is associated with a number of other conditions, however, and should be used in consideration of other symptoms to identify possible pulmonary embolism.

Individuals who cough up blood may also be experiencing a pulmonary embolism. In severe cases, blood may also appear in the nasal sputum. Like excessive sweating, blood in saliva or nasal sputum can be associated with other symptoms. Patients who experience these symptoms should report to a health care provider as soon as possible for immediate treatment.



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